At a time when making a name in the world of stand-up comedy is at its most difficult, 8 young hopefuls, whittled down from hundreds, came together to compete for the distinguished Chortle Student Comedy Award once again. Compered by the affable Mark Watson, who did an excellent job of warming up the audience and helping to create a supportive atmosphere for the contestants, what followed was an impressive evening of comedy from some of the top young acts in Britain.First up was South African born, Isle of Man based Pierre Novellie. Despite taking the undesirable opening spot, Novellie sufficiently charmed the audience with his observational comedy which focused largely on his deconstruction of TV ads.American-Egyptian Dalia Malek followed and despite never having performed a gig before the Chortle competition she did well considering her lack of experience. Her material, which consisted of controversial imagery and puns concerning Muslim culture, was risque, but just about acceptable, as she used her own arabic background to justify her acerbic words.
Johnny Pelham was undoubtedly the most endearing of the evening’s acts and only just missed out on the top spot. With much of his material concerning his physical appearance, which the NHS deemed so unfortunate they felt it necessary he have an operation, his greatest compliment came when Mark Watson referred to him as Daniel Kitson born again. Although his stories were slow and difficult to hear as a result Pelham’s speech impediment, it would be fair to say that his final pay-off brought the house down.
This year’s winner, Kwame Asante, presented a well-polished set that combined self-deprecation with an ineffable charm. From the abuse he receives from his supposed ‘friends’, to the casually racist comments he has been subject to but which he points out make no sense, Asante clearly has a natural grasp of what’s funny and thus holds much potential were he to pursue a career in stand-up.
Sebastian Bloomfield’s character act Johnny F. Monotone presented the most unusual set of the evening. Cautiously entering the stage adorned with a long coat, beard and hat, as well as a large wheelie bin, Monotone spent a noticeable amount of his allotted time simply on taking his position on the floor. When he did get round to his material - dry humour delivered in a completely deadpan fashion - he unfortunately did not provide the audience with enough time for them to truly grasp his character.
Hari Sriskantha provided a geekish outlet for the evening’s entertainment. In an attempt to impress the judges by the greatest means possible, the physicist presented as many of the most popular joke conventions he could muster in seven minutes. The result was a quick-fire succession of laughs that was accentuated by his ringing of a bell to signify a new joke type.
Penultimate act Adam Mitchell graced the stage at a point when the audience were noticeably beginning to lag. After getting the audience to sing him Happy Birthday, he presented a number of offbeat gags that unfortunately didn’t quite gel with the audience. A performance that didn’t really know where it was going, it is only a shame that it came at a competition where conviction and direction are essential.
Final act David Elms brought a flurry of energy to the otherwise weary audience. His gentle delivery and musical accompaniment in the form of an acoustic guitar, was subtle, yet brought with it a high level of laughs. Perhaps the closest contestant of the sought after award that didn’t achieve any recognition, he is bound to go on to great things.
Given the high level of competition this year, the contestants did well to even get to the final at all. A highly enjoyable evening featuring the potential big names of tomorrow, it is not an understatement to suggest that the judges will have had a hard time making their decision.